This June, Inman’s editorial theme is Teams — we’re going to go deep on what it takes to grow your team amid this intense seller’s market. And if you’re not already a subscriber to our Teams Beat email newsletter, sent every Thursday, sign up now.
Visit any dentist’s office, and the same scenario unfolds:
- The receptionist greets you.
- An assistant escorts you to the chair.
- Your teeth are X-rayed by a technician and then cleaned by a dental hygienist.
- If you need work, the dentist finally appears.
It is a well-oiled machine designed to provide the highest level of care in the most cost-effective manner as well-trained specialists perform specifically designated tasks. Because the system has been around for years, it is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that the thought of the dentist greeting you as you enter the office is ludicrous.
A well-designed real estate team works the same way: The process of selling a home is divided into critical components, trained professionals facilitate each segment, and when done right, the client experiences a seamless consumer experience with outstanding results.
There is one tiny problem, however. Whereas dentists have been doing this for years and have embedded the process deep into the public consciousness, real estate teams are a relatively new concept. And teams frequently struggle to communicate the process to potential clients effectively.
To add to the confusion, teams often go head-to-head in listing appointments with sole practitioners who assure homeowners they will be in constant contact every step of the way. Many sellers, familiar with the older systems, are comfortable communicating with only one person throughout the entire process.
Without question, properly constructed teams can provide a superlative consumer experience and do so on a much larger scale than sole practitioners.
We use the following diagrams to illustrate the difference to our clients:
Working with a team vs. a solo agent
Although the diagram above shows suggestions as to what specific team member roles might be (team member positions will differ from team to team), it’s clear that everyone on a team is focused on the client to fulfill their specific responsibilities.
Conversely, the following diagram illustrates that — by virtue of being alone — sole practitioners must focus outward on everyone they will be relying on to provide specific services with less time for the client.
Ironically, without the proper structure of a well-setup team, the overall effect on the clients will be substantially worse than if they were to work with a sole proprietor who knows every detail in an entire transaction.
5 steps for the best client experience
To ensure that a team functions well and provides the best customer service experience possible, here the top five types of systems teams should have in place:
1. Set up effective systems for every component of the transaction
From what happens the moment a lead comes in to the first meeting and throughout the relationship, detailed systems must be in place so that nothing is overlooked or dropped.
Large teams have an administrative hub that works off comprehensive checklists that ensure that all of the benchmark activities happen and that the clients are aware of what just happened and what the next steps will be.
For a team to operate effectively, everyone must know their specific roles and execute flawlessly every time. Every person must know where their job begins and ends in a team.
Although it’s important to cross-train so that administrative personnel can cover the bases for those who might be missing while sick, on vacation or overwhelmed, day-in and day-out, each team member must have concise job descriptions and stick to their tasks to avoid confusion and chaos. One of the advantages of a large team is the ability to hire a rockstar admin team.
2. Set up crystal clear expectations
The No. 1 problem in any relationship is the failure to set expectations clearly. To provide the best possible consumer experience, teams must begin communicating expectations from the very first meeting.
As the listing appointment wraps up, the listing agent should be providing a clear roadmap for what happens next.
For our team, the moment clients sign listing docs, the clients receive two communications: one from our listing manager, who outlines the next steps, and the second from one of our transaction specialists who sets up an appointment to visit the home for a transformation consultation.
All along the way, we let the clients know, “Here is what happens next … ”
3. Set up ironclad channels of communication
When railroads began stretching across America, two things made expansion possible. The first was the invention of the telegraph, which allowed for almost instantaneous communication. The second was developing a national standard for time, which allowed trains to run on the same clock no matter where they were in the country.
Standardized time also meant developing extensive time zones.
It’s the same for a team: effective instantaneous communication is the lifeblood of any effective organization, and on-time execution of details is paramount.
In the same way a train runs a specific route and must do so at a specific time — regardless of the circumstances — listings are a rhythmic cycle of starting and ending over and over again.
Like station masters of old who reported the exact times a train left their station, everyone on a team must be in the loop and providing critical information at every step of the listing process, so no detail gets overlooked. There are no surprises, and the clients can count on their property hitting the market on time with upgrades completed, pictures done, media prepared, open houses scheduled, offer deadlines in place and more.
Clients must know ahead of time what will happen when offers come in, how the team will handle escrows, what happens at closing and so on. Every team member should have communication protocols built into their tasks, so the clients know what is happening every step of the way.
4. Set up consistent follow-up
Many teams have consistent check-in points. Some even provide gifts at significant milestones so that clients are positively engaged every step of the way.
If a team has a lead listing agent other than the team leader, it’s helpful if the team owner calls the client at some point during the process to let them know how grateful the leader is that the clients chose their team and to ask how things are going personally.
It’s a gutsy call — the owner must be willing to accept any compliments and respond immediately to any issues the clients might have.
Additionally, each person on a team must follow up with the client at every step of their process to ensure they handle all of the clients’ questions, immediately identify issues and resolve them, and lay out the next steps.
5. Set up extensive closing procedures
No matter how good a transaction might go, it’s easy to fumble at the end and destroy all of the goodwill that you built up to that point.
Clients might not remember the details in the middle of a transaction, but they certainly remember the ending.
Although most people tend to relax at the end, that’s the time to be the most diligent in ensuring that nothing gets in the way of a solid close and post-close process.
Again, comprehensive checklists, clearly delineated expectations and extensive communication are the key:
- When can the seller expect to get their funds?
- Did they hand over all the keys, including the mailbox and any amenities?
- When do they transfer utilities?
- When do they get to cancel the insurance?
- How will any closing gift be handled?
- What if a parcel gets delivered after the close?
A successful close has a long, detailed list that, if adhered to, will help ensure you end strong and on a positive note with the clients.
A team can deliver extremely high levels of service on a large scale — if run effectively.
Team leaders design their teams to handle significant transaction volumes. Because teams hone their procedures to such a high degree, like a well-oiled machine, the internal mechanisms keep everything on track and the clients happy. This specialization is precisely how teams rake in referrals, 5-star reviews and future success.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.